Flock integration problems. Need help!

Ladyelmo1

In the Brooder
May 11, 2021
5
5
11
Southern Maine, USA
This is the first time I’ve tried to merge flocks and I’m at a complete loss. I have an existing flock of four 3yr old golden comet hens. This spring I got 7 new chicks - mix of australorp, Wyandotte, barred rock, Rhode Island, and an ameraucana. I also bought a new coop and run set up.

The pullets are now 16 weeks old. I set them up in the new coop alone for a while, then had them in a penned area alongside the older chickens during the day for a while. Let them all out to free range together, and then brought the hens into the new coop.

All four hens are bullying and chasing the pullets, constantly, for fun. I tried separating out the worst of them, but that didn’t work. This morning I moved three of them out to the old coop, thinking one on her own would be better. It’s not. The pullets WILL NOT stand up to her in any way, and she’s now chasing them for sport. They are huddled in the coop until she goes in, chases one out to mess with, then runs that one around the run until they dart back inside. Rinse and repeat. I watched it happen four times now in the last 10 minutes.

My old coop will not last another winter - I need them to be all together before then. HELP!!!!
 

CalBickieMomma

Songster
Jul 27, 2019
973
1,824
246
San Luis Obispo County, CA
Oh, the joy of introducing new Littles …. It sounds like you are doing this the right way. I think the big hens are just doing what they do. My two newest Littles (about 18 weeks now) still get picked on by the big girls, and they’ve been part of the flock for almost two months now. Do the younger ones have space to run away inside the coop/run? And how bad is the bullying? If they aren’t drawing blood or ripping out crazy amounts of feathers, you might just have to let them be (as hard as it is to watch). Sometimes it takes a while for them to adjust.
 

Ladyelmo1

In the Brooder
May 11, 2021
5
5
11
Southern Maine, USA
Oh, the joy of introducing new Littles …. It sounds like you are doing this the right way. I think the big hens are just doing what they do. My two newest Littles (about 18 weeks now) still get picked on by the big girls, and they’ve been part of the flock for almost two months now. Do the younger ones have space to run away inside the coop/run? And how bad is the bullying? If they aren’t drawing blood or ripping out crazy amounts of feathers, you might just have to let them be (as hard as it is to watch). Sometimes it takes a while for them to adjust.
They have space to run away, and there hasn’t been any blood. Thanks for the reassurance and the perspective. 😊
 

Liz Birdlover

Crowing
Jan 6, 2018
1,420
4,989
426
Delaware, USA
I had some bullying going on. I got some pinless peepers. Bullying stopped while wearing them. After a week I took pinless peepers off bullies 1 at a time, 1 each day, starting with lowest on pecking order. By the time I got to the last 2, they were still being mean so they wore the pinless peepers another week. They were instigators, so I did remove those 2 & set them up in a temporary cage for 2 weeks, then reintroduced them 1 at a time. No more Bullying at all by then. If anyone does act up again, I can reuse the pinless peepers, but so far so good. No one drew blood but there were feathers yanked out & the poor ones being bullied were always afraid & not able to eat like they should, so while I hated the pinless peepers idea, it was the only logical choice at the time. It did work in my case.
 

Sueby

Free Ranging
Apr 23, 2019
2,136
16,003
656
CT
Chickens are mean. I had one I had to cull because she would not ever get over herself & stop beating the newbs (blood & all). We tried separating her out for weeks, pinless peepers (but she couldn't work the waterer) - I tried everything.

But this last integration went well, though it still looked rough at times. & the 4 new girls still get pecked at a lot, but they are now a flock with no blood drawn.

It does sound like you're doing it right. Make sure you have extra waterers & feeders so no one goes without & make sure you have hiding places & places for the littles to get away. Put up some roosts outside so they can get up & out of the way. I never fed treats to them because it was a guarantee for a good pecking for the littles. It can take a while, but as long as no one is drawing blood they'll adjust.
 

Ribh

Weirder, stranger, quirkier, lovelier
Dec 18, 2018
15,599
144,659
1,417
Island, Australia
My Coop
My Coop
I'm sorry but you have a lot of breeds that are known for being domineering & not taking well to interlopers. It will take time, & may settle as your new girls come onto the lay. Laying gives status in the chook world. Make sure you have multiple feeders, waters & hiding places. Mixed flocks can work ~ I have one myself~ but I deliberately went for non~dominant breeds & I do not tolerate an aggressive chicken. They get separated though I've never had to rehome one.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Nov 27, 2012
101,733
147,878
1,867
SW Michigan
My Coop
My Coop
The pullets are now 16 weeks old. I set them up in the new coop alone for a while, then had them in a penned area alongside the older chickens during the day for a while.
How long is "awhile"?
They should be side by side, but separated by wire, 24/7 for at least a couple weeks.

How big are your coops, in feet by feet?
Dimensions and pics would help immensely here.


Here's some tips about......
Integration Basics:
It's all about territory and resources(space/food/water).
Existing birds will almost always attack new ones to defend their resources.
Understanding chicken behaviors is essential to integrating new birds into your flock.

Confine new birds within sight but physically segregated from older/existing birds for several weeks, so they can see and get used to each other but not physically interact.

In adjacent runs, spread scratch grains along the dividing mesh, best if mesh is just big enough for birds to stick their head thru, so they get used to eating together.

The more space, the better. Birds will peck to establish dominance, the pecked bird needs space to get away. As long as there's no copious blood drawn and/or new bird is not trapped/pinned down and beaten unmercilessly, let them work it out. Every time you interfere or remove new birds, they'll have to start the pecking order thing all over again.

Multiple feed/water stations. Dominance issues are most often carried out over sustenance, more stations lessens the frequency of that issue.

Places for the new birds to hide 'out of line of sight'(but not a dead end trap) and/or up and away from any bully birds. Roosts, pallets or boards leaned up against walls or up on concrete blocks, old chairs tables, branches, logs, stumps out in the run can really help. Lots of diversion and places to 'hide' instead of bare wide open run.
Good ideas for hiding places:
https://www.backyardchickens.com/threads/a-cluttered-run.1323792/
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
12 Years
Feb 2, 2009
28,308
23,667
907
Southeast Louisiana
then brought the hens into the new coop.
So what is going on happens inside your coop and run, not when they are free ranging. It sounds like your coop and run may not be all that big. It may be OK once they are all integrated but integration usually takes more room, especially when there is an age/maturity difference. Size in feet of the coop and run and photos showing what they look like could help us help you.

The pullets WILL NOT stand up to her in any way,
Until they mature enough my pullets don't stand up to mature hens either. Size doesn't matter, maturity does. It's not the size of the chicken in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the chicken. Until my pullets mature enough they are often terrified of the older hen. You said you need to be ready for winter. It's August, you will be. My pullets usually reach that maturity level around the time they start laying.

Without knowing what your facilities look like my general suggestion is to let them free range together during the day and sleep separately at night for a while. I let mine do that for at least a month before I move them into the main coop. That typically puts the pullets at 12 weeks old when I move them inside. I start young. My coop is fairly big, 8' x 12', and has different places the pullets can sleep away from the hens and avoid the hens when they all wake up.

My standard procedure is to wait until dark and move the pullets into the main coop when it is too dark for the older ones to see to bully them. I just toss them on the coop floor, at that age they are not going to sleep on the main roosts with the adults anyway. They will find a place to sleep. As long as it is not in a nest and is predator safe I don't care where they sleep. I'm down there at daybreak when they are just waking up to see how it goes. I usually find the pullets on the main roosts while the mature chickens are on the coop floor. Once I'm confident they can be in there together without a massacre I sleep in some. That's usually one or two mornings.

Many behavioral problems are made much worse by lack or room, especially during integration. That's why we are so interested in how much room you have. And quality of what room you do have makes a difference. There are tricks to improve the quality of what room you do have.
 

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